Sometimes, modern life becomes so hectic that you have to escape, even if only for a day or two. Last month Chris and I did just that, using a visit to our Devon wedding venue as an excuse for a sneaky midweek break at two very different places to stay. The base for our first night: Hotel Endsleigh.
Hidden in private parkland on the banks of the River Tamar, with views out over a densely wooded valley and not another building in sight, it’s an enchanting place. It felt almost as if, along the winding lanes between the A30 and the flower-flanked entrance, we’d left the 21st century behind and entered a fairy tale.
Originally built as a hunting and fishing lodge for the Duke of Bedford, who once owned a third of Devon, Endsleigh is now run by the renowned Olga Polizzi and her hotel-inspector daughter Alex. The 18 rooms – some in the main house, others in the old stable block, and one in the thatched, Hansel-and-Gretel-esque gamekeeper’s cottage at the top of the drive – are wonderfully restful. There’s nothing overly ornate or contemporary to jar with the rural setting; just elegant antiques, hand-stencilled wallpaper, stacks of books to browse, and – the biggest luxury of all for us city dwellers – total silence. Ours was nestled under the eaves at the very top of the building, and we loved looking out over the jumble of gables and chimney pots from the armchair by the window.
As soon as we’d settled in, we ventured outside to explore the grounds (well, some of them – the estate covers 108 acres in total). We wandered for the entire afternoon, discovering a rose-covered walkway, a parterre garden ringed by a miniature moat (built so the Bedford children could sail their toy boats), a vine-entwined terrace paved with sheep’s knuckles (really!), and a shell-encrusted grotto that looked like something from the pages of Hans Christian Andersen.
Once darkness began to fall, comforting whiffs of wood smoke lured us back inside, where we found fires crackling in the grates and tealights flickering on every available surface. We made straight for the drawing room, where we lingered over pre-dinner drinks and pretended we were in Downtown Abbey.
Next came a seasonal feast in the wood-panelled dining room: celeriac velouté, roast guinea fowl and saffron potatoes, followed by a cheese platter and a rich gateau oozing with chocolate ganache. We finished up with wine by the fire, before retreating upstairs for deep, uninterrupted sleep in our blissfully comfy bed.
Morning arrived all too quickly, but there was time for one last treat before we had to drag ourselves away: a delicious breakfast of eggs Benedict with avocado, accompanied by birdsong and steaming cafetieres of coffee.
As we wound back up the driveway towards the road, the hotel faded into the autumnal mist behind us, almost as if it had never existed – a fitting end to a fleeting stay at a place that truly feels hidden from the world.
I’ll share a look at our second Devon base next week, but in the meantime you can read more about Hotel Endsleigh here.
All photography by Abi Dare